Intended to be anecdotal and also suitable for families, I didn’t expect to get a lot from this book.


As many drinking stories as have accumulated with respect to Bobby Layne, I was worried that all I would get would be anecdotes. But no, a careful reading of this small book yields some real information on the history of play in the NFL. For example, this bit from his chapter on defenses (1):

During the early 1950’s, the big years for the Detroit Lions, the defenses were not as complicated as today. The flanker back, who is really an end, revolutionized pro football. Until this innovation, and I don’t know who started it, defenses were mostly the same. Nearly every team played a 5-2 with four guys deep to take care of the passes.

Of course there were adjustments but basically the five men up front were keyed to stop any inside running plays. The two linebackers were responsible for the outside and short passes, while the four men in the backfield played tight to help out with a tackle or be ready for a pass.

Later, in a chapter called “Coaching”, he talks about the difference between the rush coming from a five man versus a four man line(2):

Even in the past five years, play has changed considerably. There used to be nothing but five man lines, with two linebackers, and four deep men. The day of the five man line is gone, simply because the offense introduced a new receiver with the flanker back.

There used to be tough, agile ends – guys like Bill McPeak, now coach of the Redskins; Norm Willey of the Eagles and Ed Sprinkle of the Bears, who could escape the blockers by force and guile. It was the end’s job, in those days, to put pressure on the quarterbacks.

With the coming of the four man line, the ends disappeared altogether. Guys like McPeak, Willey and Sprinkle would be linebackers today. The four man line is made up of the biggest men on the team. Besides being big, today’s four defensive linemen are usually so tall, you’d think they would be playing basketball instead of harassing quarterbacks.

In today’s game, you will see those tall linemen charging up the middle. The toughest job for a quarterback is to see over or under them, so he can spot his receivers.

There are sections where he discusses the increasing specialization of the NFL “no such thing as a triple threat back in professional football” and the single wing “good offense, but it takes as much out of you as the opposition”. He makes it clear he prefers to call plays, talks about the art of play calling, gives his opinions of the GOAT, as far as QBs go (Sammy Baugh. Joe Schmidt is his linebacker GOAT). Overall, not as much coaching info as a coaching guide, but it’s arguable that Bobby Layne was the one of the best QBs of the 1950s, and the opinions of such an expert do carry some weight.

It’s useful on a coaches or fan’s bookshelf. Just enough technique to be useful.

Notes and References

1. Layne and Drum, pp 52-53
2. Layne and Drum, pp 118-119


Bobby Layne and Bob Drum. “Always on Sunday”, Prentice-Hall, New York, 1962.


I was originally looking for as much information on Robert Neyland’s methods of playing football as I could find. The best reference is probably Andy Kozar’s “Football as a War Game” but finding cheap copies these days is next to impossible. Dr Kozar’s book is made of annotated notes of General Neylands, and originally could be had for $75.00. On Amazon these days, one copy is being offered for a bit more than $2800.00. So, that said, I read Dan Gilbert’s book, which is a decent history of the man but a mediocre football book.


All that said, it became evident that there was an early standout on Robert Neyland’s teams, and that man was Bobby Dodd. Bobby Dodd was a quarterback on 3 of Neyland’s best teams, and later became a coach with the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets. In 1952, Bobby Dodd won a college national championship and in 1954, he wrote a book on football.


The timing of the book is useful, as it’s between the 1950 publication date of Don Faurot’s book and the 1957 publication of Wilkinson’s tome on defense. Anything that can give me a snapshot in time of what people think is useful, and this gives an opinion of a respected, Neyland educated coach. Interestingly, when Bobby Dodd retired from coaching Georgia Tech, his replacement was Bud Carson, the same Bud Carson who became the well known defensive coordinator for the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers (and where the first versions of the Tampa 2 appeared).

If I had to hazard a guess, from the amount of space devoted to it, then I would say that Bobby understood the 6-2 better than any other defense. It was the first defense he introduces, and in the shifted 6-2, the defense he recommends against the single wing. The next base defenses he introduces are the 5-3-2-1, as he calls it (the 5-3) and the image that follows shows a 5-3 from an offensive context.


Later he introduces the defense he calls the 5-4-2, and later says the best of them is the 5-4 Oklahoma. For Dodd, it was a defense against the split T.


His final base defense was his goal line defense. Against spreads, he gives advice that would feel at home with anyone who has read Dana Bible’s book.


There is a lot in Bobby Dodd’s book, that I haven’t covered, as he gives an enormous amount of drill, and then also his philosophy of football, which was that it had to be fun, or else the students wouldn’t enjoy it. In many of the psychological aspects of football, his approach is very modern, and the book would not hurt any coach to have on his bookshelf.

I’m doing a brief review of Python again, as it relates to things that draft fans might like, and note that the random and statistics modules all seem pretty useful.

So, the design goal here is: can we make a good enough simulation to tell us something about draft strategy. Can we learn something about BPA versus need by using Python code? Right now I don’t have an answer, but I can show you some of the approach so far.

One thing I’ve found if you’re moving from another language into Python, that you can eliminate a lot of scope issues if you’ll do certain substantial bits of work in a Python class. The scope of self variables is easy to measure and then you’re not wondering whether the common variable in Python has exactly the same scope, as say, a lexical in Perl.

So for now, we present the Playa class, a “draftable” object.

import random
from statistics import mean
from pprint import pprint


class Playa:
    def __init__(self, oldid=0):
        self.value = random.randrange(1,101)
        self.pos = self.getposition() = oldid + 1
        self.drafted = False
        self.meanshift = -1000.0

    def __repr__(self):
        return "Playa id:{0:3d} pos:{1:s} val:{2:3d}".format(, self.pos, self.value )

    def out(self):
        return "id:{0:3d} pos:{1:s} val:{2:3d}".format(, self.pos, self.value )

    def getposition(self):
        poslist = ["QB","RB","WR","FL","SR","TE","LT","LG","RT","RG","OC"]
        return poslist[random.randrange(0,11)]

    def draft(self):
        self.drafted = True

This object will allow us to generate players and then associate them with teams. Players can be identified by their id, a draft value can be derived from their real value (1-100), and a logical variable shows whether they are drafted or not.

I’m only using offensive positions in this simulation. And since more and more teams use a slot receiver as opposed to a fullback, we have “SR” in our position charts.

If with 32 teams, you generate 320 players per draft, then the values of 1 to 100 break nicely, as real value of 91 to 100 are first round talent, 81 to 90 are second round talent, and so on.


I’ll continue posting my odds, though this has not been the best season for them. Jacksonville continued to be best modeled by their median point spread, as opposed to their playoff formula. Philadelphia outperformed any reasonable prediction of their play once Wentz went down.

My system gives an edge to New England. Philadelphia played a tougher schedule but lacks playoff experience by my system. There is no home field in the Superbowl.

Super Bowl Playoff Odds
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles 0.586 0.642 4.3

Video has become available, in the right places, of the 1950 Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma and LSU, and early in that video, you see LSU line up with a pair of split ends. And interestingly, the defensive ends of Bud Wilkinson’s 5-2 go out with them.


And this is important because the answer to the question of when did 5-2 defensive ends acquire pass responsibilities is, more or less, right from the start. This isn’t a ad-hoc defense that Bud cooked up. Oklahoma was playing this defense all that year (1). You see the 5-2 all through the video, tight and loose. And to the question of which was an older keying defense, the Oklahoma is absolutely older than the 6-1 Umbrella (Oct of 1950, as opposed to the January bowl game), and so is older than Tom Landry’s 4-3 inside/outside.

So where did these stand up defensive ends come from? As far as I can tell, common practice. In the 1950 game, you’ll see LSU on defense with 4 players in a 3 point stance, flanked by two players in a two point stance. That’s a 6-2 defense, 1940s style.


And images from the 1945 Sugar Bowl (Alabama – Duke) show it wasn’t unique to LSU.


I’ve had coaches I respect tell me that Bud’s 5-2 has antecedents in General Neyland’s defenses. I have seen some video of the 1952 TN team but none that quite shows the kind of flexibility shown by Bud on the first image in this article.

Dan Daly has a new blog and I think people should check it out. Doug Farrar is supposedly working on an article about Clark Shaughnessy and I hope it turns out well. It’s not easy to disambiguate facts in Shaughnessy’s time frame and I hope he does his homework on that one.


1. Keith, p 55.


Keith, Harold, Forty-seven Straight: The Wilkinson Era at Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Press, 1984.


Outside of the New England game, all the games were good and exciting, from the final goal line stand by the Eagles, to the win with ten seconds left by the Vikings. The Jacksonville Jaguars are just not well managed by this system. It was easy to see that through the year that they were a boom or bust team. They could win big or lose big, and in the game with the Steelers, they were enough in “win big” mode that the Steelers could not keep up.

Philadelphia won because of their stout defense, a Nick Foles that gave them a AYA of 8.2 for the game, much akin to Carson Wentz’s average.

To remind people, the 2017 worksheet is here, and the methodology is here. The odds for the next round are below.

Conference (NFC/AFC) Playoff Odds
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
Philadelphia Eagles Minnesota Vikings -0.604 0.353 -4.5
New England Patriots Jacksonville Jaguars 1.872 0.867 13.9

The first round is over and in terms of predicting winners, not my best (by my count, 1-2-1, as we had Jax and Bills in a de facto tie). I was pleased that the model got Rams and Atlanta correct, and the Sunday games all came down to the wire. One or two plays and my formal results would have been impressive. Still, back to the predictions for this week.

To add some spice, we will predict results for New Orleans normally, and also as if Drew Brees is elite. Values in parentheses are the elite numbers. With elite status or no, Minnesota is still favored in this data set.

The only home team not favored is Philadelphia. We discussed this in part in this article.

Second Round Playoff Odds
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
Philadelphia Eagles Atlanta Falcons -0.878 0.294 -6.5
Minnesota Vikings New Orleans Saints 1.231 (0.484) 0.774 (0.619) 9.1 (3.6)
New England Patriots Tennessee Titans 1.674 0.842 12.4
Pittsburgh Steelers Jacksonville Jaguars 1.915 0.872 14